Brown University Cancels the Display of a Home Where Rosa Parks Stayed in Detroit

Brown University had planned to host an exhibit that included the reconstruction of a small home where Rosa Parks had stayed in Detroit after leaving Alabama to escape the backlash she encountered for her civil rights activities in Alabama.

In February, Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, said that “the intensity of our current national discourse around issues of race demonstrates the urgency of addressing the issues Rosa Parks confronted. The opportunity to host the Rosa Parks home will build on the traditions of dialogue at Brown on race, racism, and the legacies of slavery.”

The Detroit home was owned by the civil rights leader’s brother. It was later lost to foreclosure and fell into disrepair. Just before the home was to be demolished it was purchased by Parks’ niece for $500. Artist Ryan Mendoza took the house apart – piece by piece – shipped it to Berlin and reassembled and restored it in his backyard. The home was taken apart once again and shipped to Providence to be part of Brown University’s exhibition, “The Civil Rights Movement: Unfinished Business.”

But now the university has cancelled the display of the home. The Brown Daily Herald reported that there was a dispute over whether Rosa Parks actually stayed in the home. However, Parks’ relatives have stated that they remember her staying with the family when Parks’ first came to Detroit when she did not have a home or a job. The Detroit Free Press reports that “the Ivy League institution told a donor who helped pay for the project that it was threatened with legal action by an institute that claims to own the rights to Parks’ name.”

In a statement the university said “Brown University deeply regrets that it must cancel the display of the house. The university recently learned from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development that the Detroit house that was to be the focal point of the programming and an exhibition celebrating Rosa Parks and civil rights is the source of a current dispute.”


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